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The Effects of Stress on Hair, Skin and Nails: Part 2

Nutrient Absorption and Stress

All the building blocks to create healthy hair, skin, and nails come from the nutrients you digest and absorb. In addition to diverting blood away from the digestive system, cortisol also decreases secretion of digestive enzymes and changes the pattern of movement of food through the digestive tract, impairing nutrient absorption. Plus, when you are under stress, your body burns through nutrients faster than normal. Over time, one consequence of impaired gastrointestinal function and increased demand for nutrients is a deficit that hits rapidly growing tissues like hair, skin and nails the hardest.

Skin and Stress

skin closeup by Flickr user FurryscalyExcessive stress and cortisol have direct effects on the skin. Maybe you have experienced flushing or sweating when your friends have sung happy birthday to you in a crowded restaurant. These are superficial and immediately visible effects of the stress response, but there are deeper effects too. The skin normally has a fatty layer which protects and insulates it, retains moisture, and gives it a smooth softness. Excessive cortisol damages this layer and results in thin, fragile skin prone to easy bruising, stretch marks, and infection. Stress also induces cumulative skin damage over time because it accelerates production of free radicals (the biological equivalent of rust). When free radicals are generated faster than the cells’ antioxidant mechanisms can neutralize them, they damage the cells and their DNA, interfere with the protein that keeps the skin firm and prevents sagging, hasten the formation of wrinkles, and speed up the aging process. Not only does the skin react to the stress hormones generated by the adrenal glands that circulate throughout the body, but also to cortisol generated within specialized cells in the skin itself. Each of these cells, called a follicle, has its own equivalent of the HPA axis and the ability to demand and produce cortisol within the skin tissue itself. With over 5 million of these cells in the body, that is a lot of mini-cortisol factories impacting your skin! In addition, when cortisol levels are out of balance (too high or too low) it can disrupt the balance of sex hormones like testosterone and progesterone which also affect the skin.

Hair and Stress

bad hair horse by Flickr user exfordyHair literally reflects stress. Because it is built from the nutrients available as it develops, and it grows approximately 1/4 – 1/2 inch per month, a few inches of hair can be used as a tool to indicate the levels of minerals or toxic substances that were present in the body over a period of time. Recently, researchers have found that elevated hair cortisol levels are a good predictor of heart attacks! This is because high levels of hair cortisol show that the person’s entire body has been highly stressed for months. Shiny, strong hair requires minerals, and deficiencies can show up as lackluster hair. Under stress, the demand for certain minerals such as magnesium and manganese increases but nutrient absorption and assimilation decreases. In someone with adrenal fatigue, absorption of these minerals and other essential nutrients is even more difficult, making the combination of high stress with adrenal fatigue particularly detrimental to hair health. A highly stressful event is even capable of precipitating a sudden, dramatic hair loss (telogen effluvium). It is commonly believed that extreme stress can cause gray hair, but until recently it was not known how this happens. Scientists are now discovering that free radicals generated at a higher rate during stress (the same ones that damage the skin) may well be the culprits, harming cells in the hair shaft that produce the hair’s pigment.

Continue to part 3

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The Effects of Stress on Hair, Skin and Nails: Part 1

Hair, Skin and Nail Health

The effects of stress on hair, skin and nails

The creation and maintenance of healthy hair, skin, and nails begins at the cellular level. It requires high quality protein for strong, supple connective tissue, essential fatty acids for healthy cell membranes, and a multitude of vitamins and minerals that act as cofactors, catalysts and antioxidants to create and repair the tissues. Hormones and other chemicals in the body also influence the way the cells respond and repair. For example, the subjective experience you feel as stress impacts these tissues physiologically because of the release of specific hormones. In other words: when you are under stress, it can show up on your face, your hands and your hair.

Your Stress Response

When you are under stress, be it a looming midterm, a throbbing broken ankle, or a smoggy traffic jam en route to an appointment, your body’s physiology responds the same way. Deep in the brain, a structure called the hypothalamus signals the pituitary, or master gland, to signal two little glands that sit on top of the kidneys, called the adrenal glands, to secrete stress hormones that prepare the body to deal with the stressor. The hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenals together are known as the HPA axis, and it is this axis that is responsible for the regulation of the stress response throughout your body. This same stress response has been around since humans wore loincloths, and it primes the body to react to the stressor with a physical “fight or flight” response.

21st Century Stress and Tissue Health

are you under stress by Flickr user stopherjonesOn the other hand, a “fight or flight” response is rarely appropriate for the stress overload arising from economic, environmental, social and psychological sources in the complex 21st century. Events such as increases in your cell phone bill, an impatient driver tail-gating your car, or rumors of lay-offs at work cannot be handled with physically active responses. However, because human physiology functions much the same as it did 100,000 years ago, the HPA axis still triggers adrenal hormones proficient at helping the body adapt to the physically demanding type of stressors faced by our ancestors: trekking through a snowstorm, surviving months of famine, or fending off an attacking predator. The adrenal stress hormone with the biggest impact on tissue health is cortisol. It makes sure that resources such as nutrients and oxygen go to the muscles first, and releases more glucose into the bloodstream to provide quick energy.

All of the metabolic changes that cortisol orchestrates are crucial in these “fight or flight” situations in which the muscles need a lot of nutrients, oxygen and fuel FAST. At the same time, the growth and repair of other tissues such as skin, hair and nails, and the function of systems such as digestion get downgraded to a lower priority. When you are fighting for your life, the importance of growing your hair or digesting your lunch pales in comparison to being able to pack a quick punch! Unfortunately, the physiological adaptations that could save a person’s life in the past may not help with 21st century stress, and may even become harmful over time. Nevertheless, cortisol continues to be secreted, and stressors continue to arise with no physical way to dissipate them. When stress is chronic or prolonged, the detrimental effects of cortisol become cumulative. Your blood flow (with its supply of nutrients, oxygen and energy) continues to be shunted away from your skin and digestive organs, limiting the nutrients and fuel for growth they receive. Your blood sugar and insulin remain elevated, potentially damaging your tissues. The end result is that the tissues of your skin, hair and nails do not receive all they need to grow and thrive. Conversely, if your adrenal glands become depleted by chronic stress (as in adrenal fatigue), they may not be able to maintain adequate cortisol levels to sufficiently sustain energy and stimulate nutrient metabolism and immune function for optimal tissue growth, repair and protection. With both high adrenal function and adrenal fatigue, chronic 21st century stress can be detrimental to your hair, skin and nails.

Continue to part 2

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Downward Dog Before You Bungee Jump (Managing Stress and Immune Function)

downward dog yoga poseHave you ever noticed that being run down and stressed can make you more susceptible to the latest virus? Although science has shown that stress and stress hormones can impair immune function, there is still much to learn about exactly how this happens.  What is known is that when you experience any type of stress, your body has the same response as early humans did when they were faced with a physical attack  ̶  it goes into a “fight or flight” reaction that affects every system in your body, including your immune system. Your brain triggers your adrenal glands (two little glands that sit on top of your kidneys) to secrete hormones to help you manage the stress. One type of adrenal hormone, catecholamines (such as adrenaline), is released quickly and acts fast. Catecholamines immediately increase your heart and breathing rate and shunt blood to your muscles to enable you to either fight or run. There is some evidence that they immediately boost certain aspects of front-line immune defense during a highly stressful experience (believed to help the body cope with injuries that might be sustained in an attack). Cortisol is a different type of adrenal hormone that has more sustained effects but acts more slowly. It changes your metabolism in ways that help you continue to deal with the stressor, such as creating sugar from other molecules to help maintain your energy. However, elevated cortisol seems to have a suppressive effect on some aspects of immune function over time.

bungee jumping from a craneResearchers exploring how stress hormones influence immunity wanted to look at the body’s reaction to a stressful event without the influence of the quick-acting catecholamines. They needed two groups of people: one that would have a normal response to a stressor, and one that would respond without the help of adrenaline and other catecholamines. To create a highly stressful situation, the researchers decided to have the subjects jump from a tall crane. 1 (I think this would do the trick!) They had 20 people bungee jump for the first time and recorded changes in their stress hormones and immune function before and after the leap. Half of the jumpers took a drug called a beta blocker prior to jumping. Beta blockers don’t interfere with the release of adrenal stress hormones, but they prevent the body from responding to some of the effects of catecholamines. The other group of 10 people jumped without taking the drug. Not surprisingly, catecholamine levels in both groups skyrocketed even before their feet left the platform. Cortisol increased during the jump.

What is surprising is that, although the beta blocker suppressed catecholamine effects in other areas (such as heart rate), the immune responses in both groups were the same. The function of white blood cells -one of the primary types of immune cells involved in fighting disease- was impaired, and overall front-line immunity was suppressed. These results are interesting because it shows that elevated cortisol, independent of the effects of catecholamine, can cause immediate and significant reductions in immune function.

Fortunately, it’s a piece of cake to avoid bungee jumping on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it is not as easy to dodge the multiple day-to-day stressors in a typical 21st century life and, as a result, many people have almost chronically elevated cortisol levels. Over time, this can undermine immune function and have potentially serious effects on your overall health. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to eliminate all the stressors in your life to protect your immune function. Instead, you can do things that will support your immune system regardless of circumstances.

A different group of researchers studied the effects of a daily yoga practice on the immune system’s response to stress.2 Sixty college students were divided into two groups: one group practiced yogic postures (such as downward dog), controlled breathing and meditation for 35 minutes a day over a period of 12 weeks; the other group did not do any yogic postures, breathing or meditation.

At the beginning of the study, there was no significant difference between the two groups in measures of perceived stress, cortisol levels, heart rate, blood pressure, or levels of a component of the immune system called interferon gamma (IFNϒγ). IFNγ is crucial for immunity against viral and bacterial infections, and abnormal IFNγ activity is associated with inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. After 12 weeks, the two groups of students were tested again during the stress of academic exams. In the non-yoga group, levels of perceived stress, heart rate, cortisol levels, blood pressure, and breathing rate were all increased. Cortisol increased by almost 200%, and there was a significant decrease in IFNγ. In contrast, the yoga group had a lower level of perceived stress than the non-yoga group, and in one test of psychological stress, they showed a lower level of perceived stress than they had originally. Blood pressure did not rise, and heart rate and breathing rate actually decreased slightly from baseline values. Their cortisol did increase under the stress of exams, but only about half as much as the levels of the non-yoga group. The change in their IFNγ was insignificant. In other words, a daily practice of yoga helped temper not only the psychological experience of a stressful event, but the physiological response to stress, as well, including the suppressive effects of stress on immune function.

What this study shows is that even if you are under stress, you can diminish the negative effects on your body, including those on your immune system.  In addition to doing the things you already know will help your body manage stress   ̶  eating moderate, regular, nutrient dense meals; avoiding caffeine, sugar and other stimulants; getting enough restorative sleep; and using supplements to support your adrenals and immune system   ̶  try incorporating yoga or another form of gentle, relaxing movement and breathing into your day. You have the power to make changes within a stress-filled life that will support your adrenal glands, your quality of life and your immune system.  Oh, and if you decide to go bungee jumping, try doing a few downward dog postures first!

1. van Westerloo, DJ, et al. Acute stress elicited by bungee jumping suppresses human innate immunity. Mol Med. 2011;17(3-4):180-8.

2. Gopal, A, et al. Effect of yoga practices on immune responses in examination stress-a preliminary study. Int J Yoga. 2011;4(1):26-32.

About the Author

Dr. Lise NaugleDr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.

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Are You Wired Tired or Inspired Tired?

By Louise Thompson, Life Coach and Yoga Instructor

This wellbeing post is inspired by sessions with two of my amazing clients who are recovering nicely from their adrenal fatigue as we work together. As their energy (and consequently their lives) is coming back it brought up a fascinating distinction that I wanted to share with you that applies to us all, every single day. In a nutshell, I believe there are two types of tiredness we can experience: Inspired Tired and Wired Tired.

Inspired Tired is the warm, achy tired you feel after making time for yourself to have a run or a swim.

Inspired Tired is falling asleep on the sofa after a hard game of tennis or playing with the kids.

Inspired Tired is that glowing tiredness you feel after a day on the water.

Inspired Tired is that satisfied weariness you get after giving that presentation or completing a project dear to your heart.

Inspired Tired is how I feel after back to back coaching sessions: it’s such intense one on one work it takes my fullest concentration, but I am thrilled and energized by my clients amazing progress.

Inspired Tired is how you feel after staying up way late talking with great friends.

Inspired Tired is the deep relaxation you feel at the end of your yoga class.

Inspired Tired is taking on a new project that you are so excited about you literally can’t sleep.

Inspired Tired is walking in a new city in a new continent taking in the new sights, sounds, smells after an 18 hour flight.

Inspired Tired is relishing a quiet moment with your newborn sleeping soundly.

Inspired Tired is an achy brain from the challenge of learning something new.

Inspired Tired is GOOD. Inspired Tired moves us towards our destiny. Inspired Tired is what brings us joy. Inspired Tired is what keeps our body healthy whilst nourishing our body and soul. Inspired Tired is how we make a difference in this world.

Wired Tired is the eye watering tiredness you feel as you feel the dread grow in your stomach as you drive to a job you hate.

Wired Tired is the tiredness you feel when you need, must have need, a triple shot latte just to get you through that next meeting.

Wired Tired is making that effort to network and socialize with people you feel you ‘have to’ impress.

Wired Tired is forcing yourself to an exercise class you don’t really enjoy to punish your body for how much it weighs.

Wired Tired is checking your work email compulsively outside of work hours.

Wired Tired is staying late at work for the 4th time this week because ‘the business’ needs come before your own.

Wired Tired is being exhausted but unable to sleep because your brain is so busy worrying about stuff.

Wired Tired is reaching for the wine as a pick-me-up, not as a pleasure to be savored.

Wired Tired is saying yes when you mean ‘hell no’.

Wired Tired is trying to do it all. Wired Tired shows you are out of balance. Wired Tired is bad for your body and your soul. Wired Tired moves you away from your destiny. Wired Tired says it’s time to reassess where you choose to spend your time and energy.

We are so quick to moan about being tired; I do it myself, a lot! What I am realizing though is: being tired is actually one of life’s great privileges, not something to be down about. It’s great to be tired. Being tired lets you know you are alive! We just need to choose the right sort of tired. We can be defeated with Wired Tired or fill life to the brim with Inspired Tired. Let’s change our perspective and embrace exhaustion!

About the Author

Louise Thompson is a certified Martha Beck life coach and yoga instructor based in New Zealand. She owns and operates Positive Balance, an Auckland-based wellness center offering life coaching and yoga classes. Find out more at www.positivebalance.co.nz

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Stress and Immune Function Part 3

The third and final part of our entry on stress and how it effects your immune system

Keeping Immune Balance Under Stress

Stress creates such an intricate web of interactions with the immune system that managing your stress and supporting your stress response system, especially your adrenal glands, can significantly enhance immunity and help you stay well.

Stress and immune functionLifestyle and Dietary Tips

• Make a point of getting 7 or more hours of sleep each night – sleep deprivation and restriction disrupt immunity
• Wash your hands to prevent the spread of disease
• Reduce your consumption of sugar (including drinks like soda and your favorite Starbucks coffee) – sugar suppresses immune function
• Eat sufficient high quality protein – amino acids are the building blocks of your immune cells
• Practice yoga, meditation, and moderate exercise, each of which has been shown to help normalize cortisol levels and positively impact immune function
• Laugh! It has been shown to help modulate cortisol and boost immune function

Supplements Can Help
Certain nutritional supplements and herbs have a long history of successful use and/or scientific support for inhibiting pathogenic activity in the body, enhancing immune function and promoting stress hardiness.
Defense against Pathogens
• L-lysine, an amino acid, helps inhibit the replication of certain viruses and has been shown to reduce viral outbreaks that tend to increase with stress
• Herbs such as grapefruit seed extract, cat’s claw, oregano, pau d’arco, thyme, and cayenne pepper have been shown to promote reduction of pathogens
• Cell wall fractions from probiotic Lactobacillus bulgaricus have been shown to support immune system destruction of toxic bacteria
• Lomatium, an herb, has been shown to help mitigate the effects of rotavirus (one of the causes of the common cold)

Immune Function Enhancement

• Probiotics for Immune Enhancement:
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus, a probiotic, beneficially modulates the immune system by increasing front line immune cells in the lungs and intestines and stimulating innate immunity
- Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus salivarius, and Lactobacillus plantarum promote healthy intestinal microbial balance necessary for optimal frontline immune defenses in the digestive tract, and have been shown to reduce the incidence of diarrhea

• Vitamins and Minerals for Immune Enhancement:
- Vitamin C has been shown to stimulate the production and healthy function of white blood cells
- Vitamin A is required for immune cell activation and survival
- Zinc is helpful in reducing both the duration and severity of the common cold

• Herbs for Immune Enhancement:
- Echinacea and thuja have been shown to help decrease duration of cold viruses in human subjects and to help increase survival rate in mice with influenza
- Ashwagandha has been shown to enhance macrophage and natural killer cell functions, and increase production of lymphocytes
- Cayenne has been shown to increase numbers of B cells and antibodies, and increase lymphocyte response
- Thuja has been shown to stimulate cell-mediated immunity

Adrenal Support
• Vitamins and Minerals for Adrenal Support
- Vitamins A, C & E help modulate brain/adrenal gland interaction and related stress responses
- Copper, zinc, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin E and bioflavonoids are important as antioxidants that help neutralize damaging free radicals that form during stress
- B vitamins and vitamin C are rapidly depleted under stress and must be replenished for the body to continue to handle stress

• Herbs for Adrenal Support
- Eleutherococcus is anti-inflammatory and helps curb excessive physiologic reactions to stress
- Eleutherococcus, maca and ashwagandha have been shown to help normalize brain and adrenal function under stress

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Stress and Immune Function Part 2

Part two of our entry on stress and how it effects your immune system

21st Century Stress Stresses Immunity

Stress and immune functionThe stress response worked beautifully for primitive humans who usually dealt with their stressors through a relatively brief burst of physical activity. Cortisol and adrenaline allowed the body to surge into action to overcome the stressor and support immune function in case of injury. During this physical activity, the circulating stress hormones were dissipated and metabolism was able to return to normal. 21st century stressors, however, seldom require a physical response and tend to continue over longer periods of time. Historically, a stressor might be something along the lines of having to wrestle a large mammal to the ground for the week’s food. Today’s stressor is more likely to be bumper to bumper traffic when you have an appointment across town in 15 minutes for a job you cannot afford to lose because your paycheck barely covers your current rent and you have a baby on the way. There is no effective way to physically overcome this type of modern stressor and little opportunity to dissipate the stress hormones it elicits. Because the stress continues, the brain keeps sending messages to produce more cortisol, and the multiple stressors become cumulative. This can wreak havoc on your immune system. If the adrenal glands are continually stressed, they may become fatigued and unable to produce sufficient hormone levels for effective immune stimulus. Consequently, a heavy stress load can have a negative impact on immune activity with either adequate or inadequate adrenal function. In addition, when people are stressed, they often do a poorer job of taking care of themselves. They have a tendency to laugh less, smoke and drink more, get insufficient sleep and make less healthy dietary choices – all of which can affect the immune system for the worse.

The Cortisol/Immune Seesaw

Elevated cortisol, as is often associated with healthy adrenal glands responding to ongoing stress, is related to a net decrease in immune function, leaving your body more susceptible to colds, flu, acne flare ups, and other infections, and potentially making you more vulnerable to more serious illnesses and degenerative disease down the road. Chronic stress is also associated with the development of allergies and autoimmune disorders. If stress continues over an extended period of time, the adrenals eventually may not be able to keep up with the continued demand and may, over time, actually produce too little cortisol. Among the other aspects of immunity that cortisol suppresses, it also affects inflammation. If the adrenals do not produce enough cortisol, inflammation in the body can worsen and inflammatory conditions can flare. Whether there is too much or too little cortisol, your body’s immune system can suffer from the effects of chronic 21st century stress.

Continue to part 3 – Rescuing Your Digestive System

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Stress and Immune Function Part 1

Part one of our entry on stress and how it effects your immune system

Your Immune System

Stress and immune functionYour immune system is a complex and highly organized network of tissues, glands, cells and chemical messengers. Continually on guard to protect your body against disease, it identifies, isolates and eliminates pathogens (viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi), dead and cancerous cells, and other substances it recognizes as foreign. These various immune activities are coordinated through an interactive communication network that also involves your brain and stress response system. Each component in this vast network contributes to the regulation of immune function.

Immunity and the Stress Response

When you experience any type of physical or emotional stress, your body’s physiological reaction is the same as that of early humans: an immediate, short-term response programmed to help you physically deal with the stressor. Your brain signals your adrenal glands to secrete hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that prepare your body for action. These hormones cause the “fight or flight” response, in which every system in the body becomes primed to do one of two things: fight the stressor or escape. The stress response increases heart rate and blood pressure to rush blood and nutrients to muscles, mobilizes sugar into the bloodstream where it can be used for energy, and focuses attention. You may have noticed these physiological changes after experiencing something like a near miss in traffic – your heart pounds, your breathing increases and your muscles tense. However, there are other important changes triggered by stress hormones that are not so readily apparent. One of the most important of these is the alteration in immune function. Almost every immune cell in the body has receptor sites for either cortisol, adrenaline, or both. The acute fight or flight response set off by adrenaline can be pro-inflammatory and temporarily boosts certain aspects of innate, front-line immunity that help reduce the chance of infection from an injury sustained in the fight or flight. The accompanying elevated cortisol suppresses the deeper, adaptive aspects of immunity that protect you over the long term from disease. If you are facing a lion, your body will shift energy resources from less immediate threats (like fighting cancer or a cold) to help you survive the critical danger in front of you. When stress is chronic or prolonged, both the increase in inflammation and the decrease in overall immune function can begin to adversely affect your health.

Continue to part 2 – When Stress Takes Over

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Resolution and the New Year: A Measure of Quality (How to Decrease Stress without Adding More) Part 2

The final part of Dr. Naugle’s article on effective approaches to resolutions in the New Year

Dr. Lise Naugle3. Sharpen your focus

Now that you’ve chosen a focal point, fine tune the lens even more. Make sure the image of what you’re trying to attain is clear in your mind. The clearer the vision, the easier it is for your subconscious to help you bring that vision to fruition and the less stress it puts on you to consciously direct the process. Focus on specifics and actions, rather than on generalities and end results. Try to avoid comparative words such as “better,” “more,” or “less,” or words that end in –er because they tend to be somewhat ambiguous. If your focal point involves creating more personal time (a rather ambiguous end-point), begin with one or two highly focused actions. Consider which of the following creates a clearer, sharper image: “make more time for me” or “stop by the park on the way home from work for half an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays to read or walk.” In the first example, “more time” is nebulous and highly subjective; with that as your target, it’s difficult to know when you’ve succeeded. With the second example, you know precisely what you’re aiming for. You have narrowed your focus from the overall goal of stress reduction to an area in which you can have a profound impact, creating more personal time, and then you have fine-tuned that even further, establishing a focus that is specific, attainable, with the emphasis on an action, rather than the final outcome. There is nothing vague or blurry about it. In the audio-visual world, every photographer wants a great shot as the end result, but they get there from the choices they make regarding each individual adjustment.

4. Make it personal and positive

People who set goals chosen from their own personal value system are more successful than those who set goals based on some external source2: what the latest magazine recommends, what your significant other wants you to do, what you think you “should” do. If you do choose to make an adjustment in your life because you think you “should,” take time to find personal and meaningful reasons that support the change, and state these in a positive way. For example, maybe you know intellectually that smoking worsens adrenal fatigue, but you’re not particularly motivated to quit. Instead of thinking, “I should quit because it’s bad for me,” try to discover direct, positive, personal benefits. By allowing your lungs to heal and limiting the toxins that your adrenals are exposed to, you may be able to rediscover an activity such as dancing you used to enjoy before your lung capacity limited you. Or perhaps you can take the money you’re not spending on cigarettes and put that towards a yoga class or other stress relief. Identify a strong inherent personal value in the changes you choose to undertake, and remember that it is easier to think about gaining something positive (e.g. dancing or a yoga class) than giving up something negative (smoking). Change can be challenging. Make sure you experience a meaningful personal benefit from all your hard work!

To move into a stress-free 2012, try letting go of the deprivation, restrictions, and needless tension that often come with the old idea of making resolutions and consider looking at things from a different view. If you choose, January  1st is as good a time as any for a self-evaluation and to reflect on things that can bring you more energy, peace and vitality. Recognize the things that are truly important to you, choose a focal point, narrow your focus, and frame your adjustments in a positive manner. Remember, a little tuning can make a big impact. By making distinct positive choices that support your overall vision, you can improve the resolution in your quality of life.

References:

  1. Norcross JC, Mrykalo MS, Blagys MD. Auld lang syne: success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. J Clin Psychol. 2002; 58(4):397-405.
  2. Koestner, Richard and Lekes, Natasha. Attaining personal goals: self-concordance plus implementation intentions equals success. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2002; 83(1):231-44.

About the Author

Dr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations® supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.

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Resolution and the New Year: A Measure of Quality (How to Decrease Stress without Adding More) Part 1

January 1st is the day the western world has chosen to commemorate the journey of our planet’s revolution around the sun. It has also become “The Day” to set goals for the coming year. Again and again, health-related resolutions hover at the top of the list: losing weight, getting more exercise, stopping smoking. For people with adrenal fatigue, health and stress issues probably dominate their lists. Although many people make resolutions, only about half stick with them for more than six months. On the other hand, people who explicitly state their resolutions are ten times more likely than non-resolvers to attain their goals.1 If you have adrenal fatigue, making changes that support a healthier lifestyle or reduce stress can have a profound impact on your energy levels, your attitude and your general well-being. However, adding additional stress by using resolutions to beat yourself up is counterproductive.

If the looming New Year and long winter nights have left you introspective, reevaluating your life as you know it and thinking about ways it could be better, the question becomes: how do you improve your chances of feeling better and getting what you want out of life without stressing yourself out more?

1. Reframe Resolutions

For many, following a resolution feels like a chore, a “have to.” There is a feeling of deprivation associated with it, and trying to white knuckle your way through a number of self-imposed restrictions can create added stress when your ultimate goal may be the exact opposite. Why not revise the concept of resolution? In audio-visual terms, ‘resolution’ is simply the measure of quality of a digital sound or image. What if, instead of thinking of a resolution as an imposing, restrictive rule, you simply imagine improving the resolution in your life? That is, you take the time to reflect on the quality of your life and how you can fine tune or enhance it. For example: maybe changing the way you eat could give you more energy. Perhaps there is a way to spend less time with people or activities that drain you or a way to create more time for activities and people that bring you enjoyment and revive your energy. Search for the places where you can enhance value or improve quality in your life.

2. Choose your focal point

Another source of stress can be biting off more than you can chew. It can be easy to come up with a hefty list of areas that could stand some improvement, which can be overwhelming. If you find that you have done this, try ripping off the bottom ¾ of that list and setting it away for later. The truth is a small positive change in one area can have a ripple effect, improving overall feelings of satisfaction about your life as a whole. Tiny adjustments on the lens of a camera make a huge impact in the final picture, and little adjustments to one or two areas of your life can greatly impact your health, your outlook, and your ability to manage stress. Instead of tackling ten tough areas, think about which ones will create the biggest improvement in your quality of life. Try to narrow the list down to three or fewer focal points. Maybe after reviewing your list, you realize that your biggest sources of stress have to do with lack of personal time. Consider making that area your focal point. Eliminating other areas for now doesn’t mean that you can’t go back to those areas or that you won’t achieve those goals; by limiting your frame of reference now, you will have better results in that area, and you can always focus on another area later.

Click here to read part 2

About the Author

Dr. Lise NaugleDr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.

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Stress Management at Any Age: Part 3

In the final part of this series on the effects stress has on us and how we can better management it, Eric Bakker talks about dealing with stress at any age, your stress type, and a 6 step stress relief plan.

Dealing With Stress At Any Age

In Your 20s

The Top Tensions: Trying to establish your career and climbing the corporate ladder; forming a meaningful relationship with a significant other
Stress Solutions: Stress management expert Meiron Lees said that during your 20s you need to build the confidence to handle life’s ups and downs. “Every day, write down something that went well, no matter how small. It will remind you of your achievements.” Work on a regular exercise plan; it will set you up for life and focus on eating the right foods. These are good habits to cultivate earlier on.

In Your 30s

The Top Tensions: Managing a career with the challenges of being a parent and/or partner
Stress Solutions: Say no; don’t load up your plate too much. “Realize that although society says you can do everything, your body says you can’t. Decide what’s important in your life and make sure your time is being devoted to that,” said Lees. For anything else, learn to delegate or just don’t go there.

In Your 40s

The Top Tensions: Trying to create wealth and establishing a quality of life by balancing work and play.
Stress Solutions: Have a plan. Whether you want an investment property or a strong, healthy body, work out steps to get there. Try outsourcing typical sources of anxiety by setting a financial plan to sort out your money woes, or a personal trainer to help you design a custom fitness regimen.

What’s Your Stress Type?

The Perfectionist

Everything has to be exactly right all the time. You may know somebody like this, or even be like this yourself. Do you ever feel that no matter how much you accomplish, it’s just isn’t good enough? That regardless of how much you achieve, you could do more? Do you find yourself focusing on the minor mistakes you made, rather than your major achievements?
If so, you might just be caught in the perfectionist trap. “Some women feel that they have to be perfect in everything they do at work. They want 100% of their work and all of their ideas to be absolutely brilliant,” reported Carol Deutsch, a communications consultant in New York. Particularly in a new job, Deutsch added, women often hold themselves up to an impossibly high standard of performance.

The Procrastinator

There’s nothing like a looming deadline to get your heart racing. It’s a stressor most of us will experience, but some people put themselves under this pressure daily by procrastinating and putting off the inevitable. Psychologist Dr. Sarah Edelman explains that if someone is constantly doing this, they might actually be avoiding their job and need to rethink their career, or are insecure about their abilities. By procrastinating, they can blame the results of the task on their lack of effort, not their capabilities.

The Status Chaser

If putting our bodies through chronic stress is a bad thing, then why do we do it? “There is the idea that to be successful means you have to work long hours and always be incredibly busy,” said Lees. Many workers equate being stressed with being effective, a misconception reinforced by bosses who commend them for their incredible efforts.

The Venter

You might think you’re complaining about work, but you may be using stress to air personal emotions that are a lot trickier to address. Some people deliberately look for stressful situations that will allow them to release pent-up emotions caused by other aspects of their life, and those closest to them often bear the brunt. “People can seek out aggression to help them feel in control,” said Dr. Streimer. And being “too stressed” to deal with anything else is the perfect way to avoid what’s really bothering you: the underlying stuff you would rather not deal with.


Your 6-Step Stress Relief Plan

  1. The first step is admitting that stress does play a role in your life and is becoming a problem. Ask yourself why you’re stressing out and whether it’s helping the situation. Doing this can give you some much-needed perspective.
  2. Next, minimize any unnecessary stress in your life right now. If you’re a worrier, don’t panic over your work, your weight and the well-being of your family and friends. Instead, choose the most important thing to contemplate right this minute. If you procrastinate, try this technique: when tackling a task, work for 25 minutes, then break for five. Repeat this four times then take a longer break. Thinking you only need to concentrate for a short time will help you stay much more motivated.
  3. Work on reversing the negative effects stress has on the body today. The easiest, cheapest way to do that is to exercise one way or another; one study found that just 18 minutes of walking three times a week lowers cortisol levels by 15 percent. “Not only does physical activity reduce hormone levels caused by stress, minimizing their negative impacts, but it also disrupts your mind, which can distract you from stress, too,” said Dr. Ali.
  4. Look at what you eat every day. The body reacts to the foods you consume the same way it does when you worry about making your mortgage repayments; it’s a stressor that can raise your cortisol.
  5. The art of relaxation – are you getting enough? It is important to balance work and play. Make sure you take time out every day to relax and ensure you get plenty of sleep. Dr. Wilson recommends that you have a quiet period of at least 15 to 20 minutes of afternoon relaxation to help build adrenal health.
  6. The Adrenal Fatigue Program of nutritional supplementation is the most targeted and specific program designed to get you up and running fast. I have personally used Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Program in my clinic with over 1,700 patients in the past several years and can vouch for its clinical efficacy.

About the Author

Dr Eric Bakker, NZ naturopathic physicianEric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  candidacrusher.com  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many You Tube videos: www.yeastinfection.org  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:  www.ericbakker.com


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